Last ATV begins journey to the station

va219_320469This evening the second of three planned launches this week lifted off carrying the final European Automated Transfer Vehicle to orbit.

The Ariane 5 rocket lifted off at 7:47:38 p.m. EDT from French Guiana carrying the ATV spacecraft, 64 minutes after liftoff the vehicle is scheduled to separate from the upper stage to begin it’s two week journey to the space station.

The ATV which is named Georges Lemaître after the Belgian astronomer is carrying over 8 tonnes of supplies to the ISS, including a record of 2695 kg dry cargo.  In addition to being the final ATV it is also the heaviest payload that Ariane 5 has ever launched at 20,300 kg. The ATV vehicle employ’s an automated docking system allowing it to autonomously arrive at the station and connect to the Russian section of the station like the Progress and Soyuz spacecraft do.

Once the spacecraft has completed it’s mission at the station it will be filled with trash and will then burn up in the atmosphere. During the fiery re-entry the spacecraft camera’s will be transmitting live video of the re-entry.

Below are screen captures of the launch from NASA TV.

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